US Air Force


Daryl M. Strong

June 11, 1930 ~ October 12, 2018 (age 88)
Obituary Image

Daryl M. Strong of Devils Lake, ND, departed this life after 88 years on Friday, October 12, 2018, at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks.

Daryl was born in Walhalla, ND, on June 11, 1930, to Joshua Alexander (J.A.) and Florence (Best) Strong.  He graduated from Park River Agricultural High School in 1948 and from North Dakota State University in 1953 with a B.S. in Bacteriology.

Wanting to fly from as early as he could remember, Daryl received a pilot’s license at 17.  He introduced his future wife, Bette Mae Stellon, to his parents after flying to pick her up and landing in the pasture next to her home near Bowesmont, ND, then flying her back home.  Both sets of parents were well pleased with the match-up, and a wedding was eventually set for Daryl’s birthday in 1953 in Drayton, ND.  Their only son, Jaryl (named after a fraternity brother), came in December 1954.  He and his wife Toni live in Houston, Texas.

Daryl’s love of flying led to three years in the Air Force, serving primarily as a helicopter pilot at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale, AZ.  On July 2, 1956, 128 souls perished when two airliners collided over the Grand Canyon, the world’s worst civilian air disaster at that point in time.  Daryl and his best friend throughout life were sent to find the remains.  Under treacherous conditions, they landed the first helicopter at the bottom of the canyon, for which Daryl received the Air Medal from President Eisenhower in Washington, D.C.  Another time, a Hopi woman living in a remote part of the Grand Canyon needed to be evacuated to a hospital immediately or face certain death.  The Army was called first but refused, saying it was far too dangerous to fly into that part of the canyon.  Daryl and his best friend jumped at the opportunity and rescued the woman.  The only son of four children, he returned to his father’s farm in Walhalla after the Air Force.

He and Dick Hardy started a crop spraying business in Walhalla in 1968.  They joined Don Schuster in Grafton to form Dakota Aviation two years later, when Daryl moved his family to Grafton, where he lived until 1985.  During this time, Daryl earned an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, the highest pilot rating conferred by the U.S. government.  He also conducted charter flights and taught others to fly, including his second eldest daughter, Roma.

While in college, Roma’s future husband, Paul Zanders, asked her to take him for an airplane ride.  Like Daryl, he always wanted to be a pilot, and eventually he prevailed upon an otherwise very busy Daryl to teach him to fly.  Paul has been a Delta Airlines pilot for 24 years, having earlier served in the Air Force.

When the time came to retire from crop dusting, Daryl and Bette moved back to the Phoenix area they had grown to love while he was stationed there in the early fifties.  The region is world renowned as a center for flight instruction and, as fate would have it, someone suggested that Daryl might be interested in becoming a Designated Pilot Examiner for the FAA.  He applied and was approved.  And for the next 18 years, he took countless individuals for check rides to determine if they qualified for one of the broad spectrum of pilot’s licenses.

In 2006, Daryl’s eldest daughter Chryl and husband Guy DeSautel, noticed that the house next door in Devils Lake was up for sale.  Once again, providence appeared to be at work and, despite the wind and cold, Daryl and Bette happily settled in next door.  This arrangement proved especially gracious after Bette departed on February 16, 2014.

Apparently, the word inactive or any such concept, did not exist in Daryl’s mind.  Always a lover of symmetry, intricate beauty, and precious gems and metals, Daryl became a certified Graduate Gemologist in 1985.  As owner of TIMIO 24K Custom Designs from 1993 until his death, he crafted all manner of custom jewelry, rings, bracelets, and gold and silver chains.  He loved his shop to the very end!  In the last few years, he bequeathed his skills to his youngest daughter Caroline, who plans to continue producing TIMIO creations from the home she shares with her husband Aaron near Seattle and within walking distance from her sister Roma and brother-in-law Paul.

As if bacteriology, farming, helicopters, flying, gem cutting, and goldsmithing weren’t enough, Daryl earned a second-degree black belt in the Japanese martial art, Aikido, at the age of 60.

In what seems a North Dakota trademark, Daryl was constantly befriending people.  Across the land and across many walks of life, Daryl leaves behind many whose affection for him is matched only by his affection for them.  Notable in this respect is his and Bette’s caregiver, Chris Gulsvig of Devils Lake.  He died knowing fully how deeply loved, admired, and respected he and his wife were by his four children and their spouses.

In addition to many nieces and nephews, Daryl leaves behind four grandchildren, Nichole DeSautel and Bethany (Shawn) Kleven of Fargo and Meridia and Natalie Clark of Snohomish, WA; and two great grandchildren, Thomas and Thea Kleven.

Daryl is preceded in death by his three older sisters, Ethyl Johnstone, Chryl Ovens, and Beryl Miller.

Daryl’s funeral will be held at First United Methodist Church in Devils Lake on Saturday, October 20, 2018 at 11:00 a.m.  Visitation will be held at the church on Saturday for one hour prior to the service.  He will be buried alongside his beloved wife – a joint tombstone already awaiting him – at the Grafton City Cemetery the following Monday.  Daryl is now in the care of Aaker Funeral Home in Lakota, ND.

Daryl loved animals, especially birds and dogs.  When he was a child on the farm, he somehow made a crow into a pet that would fly to his bedroom window and land on his shoulder.  He said the crow loved to straighten his hair!  Later, his children often found him bringing home a baby bird or duckling that couldn’t fly for some reason, hoping to keep it alive until it could survive on its own.  Because of his lifelong affection and compassion for dogs, memorials will be designated to Pet Rescue Services throughout North Dakota and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Devils Lake.

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